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brain tumor

Joy

Strangers rally to cry for help for 22-year-old mother given just four months to live

In 24 hours, people flooded the family with donations to hopefully buy Rachael Burns some time with her 1-year-old daughter, Raeya.

Rachael Burns was given a dire prognosis as her daughter turned one.




Being given just a few months to live is a daunting prognosis for anyone, but when you're a 22-year-old mother with a 1-year-old daughter, it's particularly tragic. Your adult life has just begun. You are the world to your young child. Your partner is suddenly looking at losing you and becoming a single parent, all in one fell swoop.

Rachael Burns of Belfast, Northern Ireland, is facing that exact reality. Eight months ago, she began experiencing headaches, dizzy spells and irritation in her eyes, according to Belfast Live. At first, doctors chalked it up to dehydrated eyes and she considered them migraines, but after an emergency trip to the hospital in early June 2024, Burns was diagnosed with diffuse midline glioma brain tumour—brain cancer with a rare, aggressive mutation that is spreading down her spine.


Because of its size and where it's located, doctors said there is no way to even attempt an operation on it. Consultants told her that anyone who came in with her symptoms and that diagnosis generally had 9 to 12 months to live.

"I’ve shown symptoms for the last eight," Burns told Belfast Live. “I was told to assume that that was the case and try to make the most of the next four months.

“I left that appointment with no real hope and I didn’t know how to tell my mum and the rest of the family, I didn’t want them to get upset. It felt like everything had just been taken away from me at that point."

Facing such a dire prediction, Burns began writing years' worth of birthday cards for her daughter, Raeya, who just had her first birthday. The only option appeared to be six weeks of radiotherapy, which would do little to help.

But research into experimental therapies unveiled a ray of hope to buy more time with her family.

"We've identified a potentially life-extending treatment in Germany, under the name of ONC201," the family shared on GoFundMe, "but it comes at a significant cost. Should Rachael qualify, we need funds to pay for travel costs, accommodation and the drugs themselves.

"We refuse to let financial worries hinder Rachael's fight for her life or deprive her and her daughter of precious time together. Our goal is to ensure their comfort should the worst come to pass. No one should go from celebrating their child's first birthday to facing a terminal illness so swiftly."

Not only did the local community of West Belfast turn out for this young family but people around the world did as well. In less than 24 hours, they'd raised £30,000 (approximately $38,000 U.S.).

mom and dad holding baby in front of a birthday cake

Donate to Support a young mother battling terminal cancer, organized by Rachael Burns.

www.gofundme.com

“I’m just totally overwhelmed by the response that we have got so far,” Rachael said. “Belfast is such a small place but you never think that people from all over would show as much kindness as they have done for me and my family. It is a scary time to be going through all of this but this has given me more hope that I can spend some more time with my family.”

Burns told The Irish News that the treatment she's seeking in Germany has extended the life of people with her diagnosis by as much as 22 months. That may not sound like much time, but in the life of a small child, it's hugely significant.

“My Raeya will always know just how much her mummy fought with everything in her power for even a quick glimpse of watching her grow into the beautiful, strong and kind girl I know she will be in this world," Burns said. “Situations are what you make of them and I refuse to just be another statistic.”

While the future is uncertain for the Burns family, the money that's been raised gives her the best chance for a miracle. Any funds that don't go to Rachael's treatment will go into a bank account for young Raeya "to support her in life for if the time comes when she loses her mother."

Find the GoFundMe here.